Archive for December, 2013

Feeling flat?

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Christmas 1 (1st Sunday after Christmas)

Hebrews 2:10-18
I don’t know about you, but I often feel a little flat the day after Christmas.

On Christmas Day, I try to focus on the good in people, the good in the presents I received, the good in the food and drink I enjoy, and the good times I have with my family.

On Christmas Day I tend to be a little more patient with people, a little more patient with things that need cleaning, a little more patient with what needs to be done.

Christmas Day is a day of happiness, joy and celebration, and if there is anything that threatens to upset this day, I will often try to ignore it or deal with it tomorrow.

Well, today is Christmas Day’s tomorrow. Today I feel a little more tired, a little more worn out, and a little more drained. The good I focussed on yesterday has become a little harder to see. What I left undone yesterday now needs to be tackled.

Christmas Day is often a day where we try to escape from reality and all our problems, our work, and our petty arguments. We focus on the good instead of the bad.

But the day after Christmas Day is a day when we all come back down to earth. Reality hits again. Work beckons, children fight, gifts break or don’t fit as planned, the bank balance has shrunk considerably, and the bills will start rolling in.

Of course, this is not the same for all people. Some people’s Christmas Day is also tinged with sadness and grief, especially if loved ones were missing, either through distance or death. If one’s health has deteriorated during the year, some may find that their Christmas celebrations are not the same as they used to be.

I don’t know, maybe I’m the only one who feels a little flat after Christmas, but maybe others feel the same.

Yesterday we heard again the good news of Jesus’ birth. Angels and shepherds sang praise to God because he has come to be with his people. Truly cause for celebration, hope and joy. But what do we hear today? He is already being chased by death!

Reality hits!

From the very beginning, death chased him. He and his family needed to flee out of his own land so that he would survive infancy. He had to escape to Egypt, the place from which God had already saved his people so long ago.

Isn’t it strange that here is God himself, the King of all creation, who is all-powerful, but now needs to run from Herod’s butcher’s knife.

Of course, we know how the story then develops. Jesus’ whole life is one of obedience to his Father in heaven as he endures suffering, criticism, beatings, and even death.

Oh what a morbid subject to talk about the day after Christmas Day!

But this is reality!

Jesus, the one through whom all things came into being, came to us in human flesh in order to establish our salvation through his suffering. This means that as he entered our world in human flesh, he also lived in our bittersweet reality, felt our excitement and fears, and would even experience the loneliness of death.

The King of creation, who has no peer on earth, now calls us his brothers and sisters because he is like one of us – one of us in flesh, but also one of us who has experienced suffering and temptations just like us, although with one exception – he remains without sin. Despite the fact he has no beginning or end, he also experienced the isolation and finality of death, just like all of us will.

Jesus knows that death and fear love to surround us and often stand at the edges of our celebrations. Death, the fear of death, or the slow death of aging will spoil our joys and will easily bring us down into a helpless state of despair or depression. He knows this. He has experienced it.

In this way, just like a good lawyer needs to get to know his client and a good doctor needs to get to know his patient, so too Jesus is able to identify with you – with all your frustrations, your temptations, your sufferings, your flat days, and he is also familiar with your eventual victor – death itself.

Jesus came to suffer and die in order that he may identify with your suffering, but also so that you will not despair of your suffering or lose hope in the face of death.

He frees you from your slavery to death and the fear of death. Yes, they are still there, staring and threatening you on your days of celebrations, your days of regret, and on your depressing days, but that’s all they can do – glare and threaten you. They no longer have any teeth. Even when you look in the mirror and are reminded of your dying through your aging, you can shout back that Jesus doesn’t even help the angels, but he helps you in your weaknesses.

Jesus, through his death, has destroyed the power of death. The devil is defeated.

Jesus, through his suffering and death, is now able to identify with you, even in your post-Christmas celebrations, or your post-Christmas blues.

Herod was not victorious over Jesus. Jesus and his family survived.

Suffering and temptations were not victorious over Jesus. Jesus endured and remained faithful and obedient.

Death was not victorious over Jesus. Jesus still lives and still stands before God the Father, feeling your pains, your sorrows, your depression, your suffering and your fears. He stands there, whispering in his Father’s ear, asking for mercy, claiming that you are his brother, his sister. You are one with him through faith. He will not be unfaithful to you or abandon you.

I don’t know about you, but I often feel a little flat the day after Christmas. Yet, I also know that Jesus will remain triumphant and will be faithful to you and I, no matter how we feel today, or tomorrow, or the next, or…

Because the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The Shepherds

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Luke 2:1-20

Last night on Christmas Eve, we spoke of God reaching the unreachable through His Son Jesus.

Jesus the much awaited Messiah and Saviour whose birth was not broadcast to the religious elite, but to shepherds who were not welcome in the synagogue because of their inability to keep the meticulous ceremonial rules and regulations. Shepherds seen as way down the pecking order of society and of questionable character:  and they are the ones called to a stable where the future of the world lays.

And their response?  Luke 2, verse 20: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard”.

Such a great picture of God the Father, giving himself to Save the World and giving His only Son to such a humble earthly beginning to walk this earth among sinners and The Holy Spirit who comes to these Shepherds and they believe, and then testify to those they meet of what has happened.

It’s a great picture because it shows what God has done and what can happen when Jesus comes into the lives of those such as these shepherds wandering in the wilderness.

And a great picture of their response. The same response we hear each week in the preface each week before Holy Communion where we state similiar:

That “It is indeed right and good, Lord God, holy Father, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. You have revealed your glorious presence to us in a new way through the mystery of the Word made flesh,
so that as we see you in your Son, we are drawn to love you whom we cannot see. And so, with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven,

We say these words together in worship each Sunday. Words of praise said by a group of people some 2,000 years ago, that though society had not changed its view about them, they had: and took a leap of faith as they gave witness to what had happened in that stable to people they met, as they continued in their employment as shepherds.

A great picture that we take with us as we enter this New Year as we too like a group of shepherds have seen and heard the truth of Christ. Not a picture of lecturing to do this and that, but the picture of change coming simply from His coming to us, like he did as a little baby to that group of men.

A group of men while wandering the country side in their occupation came to see and know the truth. And though after, they still wandered the country side as fitting the role of a shepherd, they now did not need to wonder.

Though these people still had the same job, probably still looked down upon by society and not welcomed by the religious elite, they were now free to be so in the freeing truth of Jesus Christ their saviour.

Jesus Christ our Saviour who has freed us with the truth. The truth that we need not be something we’re not. The truth that in ourselves that we are no better a person than when we met Him. But the truth that in Him has come forgiveness, redemption, life and freedom.

At the end of the American civil war, after being given their freedom, many of the slaves response to their once were slave masters was that “now I’m free, I’ll work even harder, but now as a free person”.

That is the freedom that Christ brought to this world. The freedom from having to, to the freedom of wanting too.

The freedom from the rules and regulations that if not adhered to kept people from the temple, to the freedom that in knowing that in Him alone is forgiveness and salvation comes the freedom to worship Him at Church, at home, at work without need for false fronts or bravado.

A pastor being questioned upon considering leaving the ministry replied, “I don’t need to be a pastor to serve God. I can serve him back home on the farm, in the shops and among the community”.

That is the freedom Christ has brought us that we take with us into this New Year.

The freedom that with our eyes set on Christ allows us to dream and achieve, or dream and fail.

To work and be rewarded or work only to be scorned. To befriend our neighbour though it may not be reciprocal. To forgive others without return and to help the helpless.

With your eyes on Christ and living in His grace your world is different and in Him so are you, because you know the truth: that in Christ and in trusting in His forgiveness you are saved and given eternal life, as you are.

And though you may still wander, you need not wonder because as He has gone before us and awaits to greet us in our heavenly homes, he goes with you now by your side, hurting when you’re hurt and Joyful when you’re in joy.

So again, I pray you have a blessed Christmas and New Year and achieve all that you set out for, and achieve all that He sets before you.  Amen.

“Jesus” or jesus

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Luke 2:1-20

In the Gospel of Luke we are told that: “Shepherds were out in the field, keeping what over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’”.

Jesus Christ said “I am the good shepherd” and He said it for a reason because like in His day there were others called Jesus, He differentiated himself with the truth that He was Jesus Christ. The Christ and the messiah. The same, there were others known as shepherds and so Jesus told us that He is the Good Shepherd.

In our day we don’t hear of a lot of people given the name Jesus as we don’t hear of those with livestock being titled as shepherds and maybe the closet we get is to that of those going “droving”.

In biblical times shepherds were well known, but not much admired. In Genesis 46:34 they are called loathsome and in Numbers 14:33 we hear of being a shepherd was to be considered suffering in punishment as we are told: “And your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they shall suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.”

The shepherds of those times were despised by the orthodox good people of the day. Shepherds were quite unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law as with the constant demands placed on them by their flocks they could not observe all the meticulous hand washings and rules and regulations and were looked down as very common people.”

Yet God specialises in reaching those considered unreachable. People like the shepherds in the first century and people like a man named Michael Braithwaite in America. A man that after coming to know Christ burnt his stock of adult sex toys worth thousands of dollars to transform his store into a Christian book shop.

An adult shop proprietor of ill repute, con men and tricksters and those of questionable character. It was to such that the angels sang of the good news of the Christ child. To the shepherds, the guys who ran the local black markets, the guys not welcome in the synagogue and the guys that could not even testify in the courts of law of the time. Yet the guys chosen to testify concerning the birth of the much awaited Messiah who we are told in Luke 2, verse 20: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen”.

Jesus Christ is the good Shepherd and by association to Him, ministers of religion are called shepherds. Yet a description that is a paradox for many, and certainly me as a sinner in myself and that of a rogue shepherd of the first century. Yet in Christ and washed clean in His blood, allowed to walk in His presence trusting that in knowing His grace upon this sinner, that others may hear of, and know of that grace for themselves.

God sent His Son Jesus, Jesus Christ the Messiah and saviour to reach the unreachable and that He found me, and found you and showed His love and the Love of God the Father by being raised on a cross, to die a torturous death and be raised three days later so that we too will raised on our last day brings tears to our eyes and joy in our hearts.

Tears because we see that after such a great sacrifice, we still fail. Yet the joy of His Gospel, that in Him, though the failures out way the successes, though the sins are prevalent and the good works rare, that by trusting in our Lord and the forgiveness that he has brought, that we stand before the Father spotless and glowing in His righteousness. The righteousness of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

This Christmas we remember a little baby that should have been clothed in robes of royal purple, yet was wrapped in simple cloth and lies on the floor of a stable if an animal’s feeding trough. Jesus who would grow from infancy to manhood, and from manhood to Saviourhood. From cradle to cross, from Bethlehem’s cave to Calvary’s crucifixion, Jesus showed us the immense love of God for His people. For us.

His love so great that He only asks we accept His Son as our Saviour, and trust in the forgiveness He brings.

And though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil because He is by our side. And though we may walk unsteady and heavy laden, He takes our weight on himself that we can find the peace that He so wants to give.

The peace He asks we accept this Christmas and in the year to come of not looking back on our sins and failures of past, but looking back to see Him, the Good Shepherd reaching the unreachable.

The peace He asks this Christmas and in the year to come that we take with us, and offer to others.

To us was born a Saviour, and though we may sin and fail, we get up, because in Him, and in Him alone we are saved, and that is peace enough.

I pray you have a blessed Christmas and New Year and achieve all that you set out for, and for that, that He sets for us. Amen.

“The way, the truth and the Life”

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

“The way, the truth and the life” 

MATTHEW 2:18-25

 

It astounds and shocks me that some of the Christian faith, some even with high title struggle with, and even deny the virgin birth because if there is one thing that perplexes me in the Gospel, the Virgin birth is not it and concur with Martin Luther when he stated:

“The miracle of Christ as Virgin born is a trifle for the mighty God. That God becomes a man is an even greater miracle and that Mary and Joseph find the angel’s messages to them credible is even more amazing.” Likewise for us: “The hardest point for us, is not to Believe he is a Virgin’s Son and God himself, but to believe that he came for us”.

That He came to bring forgiveness in Himself to thieves, murderers, drunks, prostitutes, drug addicts, for wall street bankers, soldiers, politicians, farmers, bankers and you: I do not find hard to believe. What I find hardest point to believe is that I’m in that list. Not hard to believe the sin side, but hard to believe the grace side.

But I do, as should you because it is does not matter who you are, what you have done or what you think of yourself, it is who He is, what He has done for us and what He thinks of us”.

Those in prison on death row, those working the streets and us here attending worship are united in sin and deserving righteous judgement, yet in turning our lives towards God in repentance and asking for and trusting in Christ, we are also united in His death for our Sins and united in eternal life in His resurrection.

In an Australian made movie about Football the coach gives a great Grand final three quarter time address where he talks of a mother being attached by a strong man looking to hurt her baby and asks his players to imagine the scene and see this lady, reach into that inner strength and find a way to protect her child no matter what the cost.

That intangible inner strength that comes through an unexpected situation where without time to access the situation and think through things, you respond and find a way you never thought possible. Those moments happen and we hear of them in soldiers, police officers, those fighting fires and in everyday people thrown into a situation abounding in peril.

That inner strength that comes when there is no time to think, and may not have come if there was time to think.

Time if we had available that may lead us to not looking for a way in, but a way out.

Truth is, though we would like to think we would do this or that, the truth is that given a situation of danger we will never know whether we would fight or flee as too when placed in a situation requiring our charity and service to others that although we hope we would, we may not as we way up if we can afford the money or the time, or even if they deserve it as we offer some excuse to flee.

Point is that like a recovering alcoholic can never be sure of total abstinence, nor can we be sure of anything that we will or won’t do or of what will and won’t happen.

So to with the Gospel if we look at what we have or haven’t done or of a sin with a hold on us or one we’ve beaten because in forgiveness and salvation before God the Father, only in the acceptance of and trust in Christ must we stand and accept the way He found for us.

To find that inner strength He gave us of faith, that like Joseph and Mary being told of the uncomparable, we too trusting in the Lord can dispel ridicule and judgements from self and others and have the inner strength of faith to give in to ourselves and listen to Him who gave Himself.

The human race was bound in sin and death, but God the Father found a way out for us by giving His own Son Jesus. Jesus who in the garden of Gethsemane asked His Father is there another way.

There was not then and there is not now for Jesus Christ the saviour is the only way, the truth and the life.

In that scene from that Aussie footy movie the coach talks of a mother being attached by a strong man looking to hurt her baby and asks them imagine the scene and see this lady, reach into that inner strength and find a way to protect her child no matter what the cost.

A fictitious speech designed to instil in them the minds of warriors that they “go to war” on the playing field.

God the Father seeing His child under attack reached into himself and found a way. God the Father seeing His child under attack. Seeing you and me, His children under the attack of sin reached in and gave himself, His only beloved Son that we not need the minds of warriors, but minds of those knowing peace.

God found a way out for us and that is why we celebrate Christmas.

There is a saying: Cheap grace. Cheap grace said by those who use it towards Christians who seem to take the grace they have received in Christ too lightly.

Maybe that is so. As so can be it in apposition when we see the greatness of our sins blurring and diminishing that grace.

God found a way for us and that is why we celebrate Christmas. We celebrate the birth of a small boy who would grow to be hung on a cross and killed so that when we see the mountain of wrongs we have done see a Father, our Father saving His child, saving you no matter what the cost.

We celebrate Christmas because when we are at the end of our tether with nothing left to give, we see what He gave us.

Jesus walked this earth on His way in compassion healing, helping and loving those in need that came before Him, as too are we on our way to those that the Lord sends before us.

Jesus on His way taught and lifted up the despondent in the truth that no sin is too great for forgiveness in Him.

We on our way are lifted up because we see a Father give His little boy to be lifted up on a cross.

God found a way to save His child, to save you and that way was not cheap and that is why we celebrate Christmas. We celebrate because we see that in Christ no sin is too great, no failure too huge and no amount of misgivings we have of self to vast before The Father for those who trust in Christ His Son, our Saviour.

We live by grace. A grace so costly that how could we, how dare we doubt it as we see God the Father looking at you and me in Sin and finding a way for us. His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ who walked like a lamb to the slaughter that we know the love of The Father and the way the truth and the life that is Jesus himself, and that is why we celebrate Christmas.

We celebrate today because we know the costly truth. That today because of Christ your sins are forgiven and in trust in Christ alone you are saved and given eternal life.

A gift to us at a cost so great that we not ask how could even we be forgiven, but a gift so great that we ask how could we be not?
Amen.

Home’s where the heart is

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

“The gift of giving”

Isaiah 35:1-10

A friend of mine took his son and daughter in their early teenager years with him on a camping holiday into the desert. Actually he dragged them with him. No internet, mobile phone coverage, hair dryers or hot showers. Yet on their return some six weeks later, they couldn’t wait for the next trip “outback”.

A silent hot and dusty arid land of treeless plains where nothing runs into nothing.  Yet a land that seems to transform and to where you end up seeing and sensing an unimaginable beauty in the nothing.

It doesn’t change; it changes you as to those who come to know and spend time in Christ where things that were once adversity become gain, where weakness becomes strength and setbacks enhance.

In today’s Old Testament reading the people of Israel are in exile and enslaved in Babylon and in their despair we can hear the words from Psalm 137 and the song “By the rivers of Babylon” where they cry:

“For there they carried us away to captivity requiring of us a song; now how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land, and yes we wept when we remembered Zion”.

Words of a time past, yet words we too we carry in our heart and mutter from our lips when we too are under the captivity of the adversity, weakness and set back from those moments and times in our lives when we are brought to our knees and weep in despair.

I was once told of a statue of Christ in Germany where unless you are on your knees you cannot see Jesus’ face clearly. As was the case with the Israelites in exile when they heard the good news of God through the prophet Isaiah, and as too us from Christ himself where in Him “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them”.

Like rain in a parched desert and in the waters of Baptism, Christ restores our arid hearts and lives with His bottomless well of love and in our adversity we see His freeing hand and strength and are renewed like in the promise from Isaiah where “everlasting joy is upon our heads as we have now obtained gladness and joy and all sorrow and sighing has fled away”.

Sounds wonderful, yet reminds me of when talking to one of my friends and after he proudly stated that he and his wife had never had an argument made me wonder which one of us wasn’t normal.

One of the Pope Paul’s (I think) once said that after having been told of a problem said to himself, “goodness, I better tell the pope about this”, only to respond “hang on I am the pope”.

So too can it be as Christians living in our world fractured by sin where even though we know the truth of Christ and the gladness and joy that He has brought us, we can still-no, we still do struggle to live it.

Not unlike now as we await the celebration of the greatest gift we and the world have received in the Birth of Jesus Christ. A time of great joy. Yet a time for non-Christians and indeed Christians alike that can magnify the loneliness of the outcasts of society as they see families and friends gather as to for those grieving the loss of loved ones.

That people have said why can’t every day be like Christmas may depend on which side of that ledger you sit.

The thing is every day is Christmas because in belief and trust in Christ everlasting joy is upon your heads and you  have obtained gladness and joy because in faith in Him alone, you are forgiven and most certainly will be re-united with those in Christ that have gone before where sorrow and sighing will be no more.

That is what Christ came for and that you know who He is and what He has done for you is the fulfilment of His great sacrifice.

In faith in Christ alone, your sins are forgiven and you have eternal life-that’s the deal. Yet while that is signed and sealed we still live in our world and our own lives disturbed by sin and so we live like a child who sees their name of a gift under the Christmas tree.

The gift has already been given and it’s already theirs, yet they must still wait and go about daily life until the day arrives when the gift is fulfilled in its entirety.

So to with your gift of eternal life in Christ under the heavenly Christmas tree where a place for you has already been prepared and awaits you. In trust in Christ, the gift of eternal life has already been given and is already yours. You can see it, yet its total fulfilment is still to come and so like a child waiting for the actual day, we live our daily lives in the season of Christmas.

Christmas day is the fulfilment as is meeting our Saviour on our last day. But until then, we live everyday in the Christmas season where we have that sure hope, but we also have the sure reality of our lives of mixed emotions.

Mixed emotions of hurt that can crush and happiness that lift up. Failures that can lead to despair and achievements that may threaten unrighteous pride. Yet living in the Christmas season everyday and keeping our eye on Christ and His promise of what awaits, we see that in the hurt we can look forward to the fulfilment of His promise, as like in the moments that threaten to puff us up with pride we are brought back to the reality of just how slight it is in relation to what awaits.

People think being a Christian is about rules and they would be right if we didn’t already have our gift of eternal life under the heavenly Christmas tree. But the unseen reality is that the gift is there with your name on it and when you see that, the “rules” to be humble and help and serve others in our lives don’t become a chore but a gift.

You have been forgiven in Christ and most surely your room in heaven awaits you and in knowing that truth, you can live everyday not having to, but wanting to. Not crippled in our sin, but uplifted in forgiveness. Christmas is about the gift of Christ as is every day and while you may not be able to open your present just yet, it most certainly is yours and that is what brings endurance in hardship and life and joy in the big and the small of our lives.

Paul said to run the good race and indeed if you run your race knowing of the truth of what awaits you, though there are hills and gullies before you and though you fall and your legs grow weary need not concern you because when in either the gullies and on the hills you can rejoice in seeing Christ come to you in others, and rejoice that in either being battered and bruised or fresh and unscathed that in Christ, you as you are have been saved, and that you as you are-can live in the joy of being a gift to others. Amen.

As nutty as a fruit cake

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

“As nutty as a fruit cake”

Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12

The three bible readings today talk of the world in relation to God’s promised gift of Him sending a Saviour. In the Old Testament reading the prophet Isaiah forecasts and talks of the Messiah King that is yet to come. In the Gospel John the Baptist is heralding the arrival of that very person, Jesus Christ who is now on their doorstep and in the Epistle from the book of Romans, Paul the apostle tells of now having received through Christ the foreshadowed promise mercy and forgiveness, that we can now live in harmony with each other in hope, joy and peace.

Three periods of time apart from each other in the history of our world. Before Christ, meeting Christ for the first time and then the result of realising His presence.  Three periods of time in history experienced by three different sets of people.  Those looking and waiting for a Saviour, those walking with the Savour and those affected by Him. Separated apart by large chunks of time but not unlike us ourselves on our own individual spiritual journeys of before, meeting and then the after effects of Christ in our own short journeys in this world.

Before, meeting with and after. Three stages of Christian life and I wonder which one you are in at the moment?

Charles Wesley, a great servant of God, a great missionary and  one of the initiators of the Methodist Church travelled by boat to preach the gospel to parts of the world that had not heard it and on his return after being asked how we went replied “Yes, many souls have been saved, but who is going to save mine”.

Before, meeting and then growing in Christ. I wonder which one you are in at the moment, just like I wonder which one I’m in.

When our son Josh turned three, I took my long service leave to look after him while my wife Cathy started some part time work with the Bendigo Bank.

It was six months of the most cherished time in my life but one Saturday morning, while playing computer games together the phone rang and a man said that Cathy had been involved in a car accident on her way home from work and that she was fine but a little shaken. We jumped straight in the car and after telling Josh of the situation I could see that he was a little worried for his mum. So I told him the truth of what I understand the man ringing had told me. It’s fine Josh, it’ll be just a small dent in the car and after we give mum a hug she’ll settle down and she’ll drive her car home.

As we turned the corner looking down a hill, about 500 metres away I could see two shiny cars, both written off in the middle of a very busy intersection. Two tow trucks, a fire engine, an ambulance and several police cars and I said to my three year old son, Josh this is worse than I thought so mum will be really upset and maybe even hurt, so both of us are going to have to be strong for mum.  He looked at me and said, “But dad, I’m just a boy”.

After my dad died a few years ago, I was looking through some old stuff and there before in an old black and white photo was my dad with his two boys at the beach. He was fit and young but what stunned me was the look of joy in his eyes. The joy in his eyes that I never really remembered a great deal off.  I loved my dad but pain of others ultimately plays out in those closet to them and after having just started my pastoral studies, I went from full time in my bank job to part time as allowed for in the first years of your study to help pay the bills. Two weeks later my brother tragically died and fearing for how my mum and dad would deal with it and having accumulated over twelve months sick leave went to see a doctor to state the situation at hand and get a sick certificate for a few weeks so that I could look after them.

What I didn’t reckon on was that it would play out a little like the scene from the movie Tin Cup, where Kevin Costner having fell for the charms of the new physiatrist in town, decides to try and get to know her under the guise of needing her services. Unfortunately for him, she does her job and he departs saying I didn’t come here to be told stuff about me I didn’t want to hear.

As to me with my doctor, a “normal” doctor but who I was to find out had an interest in the health of the mind and after she had written out my sick certificate started meddling in not just how I was dealing with life at that time, but also how I had dealt with life in general and that she seemed to suggest that from want of a better word “I was somewhat a tortured soul” was not what I went there for and like Kevin Costner in Tin Cup went in feeling fine only to walk out knowing I was as nutty as a fruit cake. Thanks for that.

In 1985 the Aussie band “The Divinyls” released a song “(It’s a fine line between) Pleasure and pain”  and in our day to day worldly moments it most certainly can be. The fine line between rain and drought, the Jockey checked in the home turn to lose by a nostril, a millisecond in the Olympic 100 metres final and in the 2005 AFL grand final where the Sydney Swans defeated the West Coast Eagles by only a few points, I remember that within minutes the commentator asked “so where did it all go wrong for the Eagles”.

When he was Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser once famously said to those angry at his political party’s decisions that were affecting their lifestyles “that life wasn’t meant to be easy”. So too, although Jesus talked of hope, joy and peace never actually said that life would be easy. In fact far from it as he talked of how we too like himself, will bear our crosses of pain, hurt, trials and tribulations in our own lives.

Jesus did not say life would be easy, but he did say he will get us through it and that is the difference and that we be still waiting to meet him, walking with him in our lives now or still trying to work it all out can change yearly, daily, hourly or in every given minute of our lives as we enjoy the best of times or endure the worst of what life can throw at us.

Our lives and times, how we are treated and how we treat others and how we act can change due to circumstances.  That’s just how it is. But I do know of one who doesn’t change towards us, and be we a little boy told to be a man before his time or a strong man in his twilight years still carrying the same fear from the hurts of life, before Jesus Christ we are as one. And as one, in happiness or sadness he comes to us with outstretched arms, not to push down but to lift up, not to add to the weight of our lives but to lift it off. Not to bring judgement on our sins and wayward lives, but to take our sins and judgement on himself as he did on the cross.

Today in our small church, through the joyous gift of baptism our numbers have swollen and truly we are blessed by your company today and that some of you I have not met before, and that some I will not see again is of no consequence to you because I am anything but a role model to be drawn to and most definitely, sooner or later would disappoint you. But should now in your life you stand still waiting to meet Christ, still asking questions of him or walking with him, Jesus Christ will not disappoint you because like in the promise he has given today in Baptism to Sophie, Luke and Tyler he offers to us all.

Not the promise that in ourselves  we will always know hope, joy and peace, but the promise that in him, regardless of what we have done or where we are at, that He came to be given as a lamb to the slaughter and die on the cross that whether it be Sophie, Luke, Tyler starting their journey with Christ or a long time person of faith at the end of their journey or you and me, Jesus Christ the messiah offers His hope, His joy and His peace to you and me today and should we accept it or not, he does not and will not change as He continues to do as he has done in the past. To walk with us, carrying us in need that we come to ask for what he begs to give. To receive what He offers, that as we are, turn to Him and ask His forgiveness that He can without jury, judge or evidence to the contrary take our hand in His and say welcome home my dear child, your sins are forgiven and as I will most certainly carry your heavy load as I walk with you in this life, so too most certainly will you walk with me in the life to come which has no hurt, no pain, no tears and no end. Amen.